Football Magazine

A College Football Players' Union Is A Bad Idea

By Jobsanger
A College Football Players' Union Is A Bad Idea (This image of the Northwestern football team is from
One of the major stories recent is the effort by some to create a football players union for college players. A National Labor Relations Board member recently ruled that Northwestern University football players were "employees" of the university, and as employees they had a right to form their own union. They will be voting soon on whether to form that union or not.
Let me preface this discussion by saying I am strongly in favor of worker unions. Labor is the only thing that most workers have to "sell", and the only way they can get a fair price for their labor is to band together in a union -- because that union makes them strong enough to negotiate with the rich company owners. Unions have been a boon to this country, and the major cause of our large middle class.
But the NRLB was wrong. College scholarship football players are not employees -- they are students, just like the millions of other students who receive scholarships to help them pay for their education. If the scholarship football players are employees, then so are those who receive other kinds of scholarships (liberal arts, business, education, etc.). My own daughter just received a nice scholarship in political science and economics, but that didn't make her a college employee. It will just help her to pay for her education -- and that is what a sports scholarship is supposed to do.
What is the purpose of a college or university? Is it to provide a farm system for professional sports? No. It is to provide an advanced education for those who are qualified and want to accomplish that. But sports is changing that. Note that the highest paid state employee in every state in the nation is either a football or basketball coach. That is insane, but it gets worse. Many of those college athletes, at least in the major colleges, aren't there to get an education. They are trying to use those colleges as a stepping-stone into professional sports -- and far too many don't even bother to get an education while playing ball in college.
The sad truth is that college sports has become big-time entertainment (instead of a teaching tool), and it is already sucking too much money away from the real purpose of a university -- providing an advanced education. Unionizing college football players will just make college sports even more expensive than they already are, and suck even more money away that should be going toward educating students. And it will be one more big step down the road of turning colleges into a farm system for the NFL. Personally, I think if the NFL needs a farm system, then it should establish one (like Major League Baseball did) -- and let the colleges return to doing what they are supposed to be doing (educating students).
And the really sad part is that this kind of unionization could compel many small colleges and universities to stop offering sports scholarships altogether, and that would mean many athletes (who have no hope of entering professional sports) could no longer be able to get a college education (because the cost of that college education would be prohibitive).
A college football players' union is just a very bad idea -- an idea pushed by sports fanatics, who care more about entertainment than they do education.

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